The New Woman of Bauhaus Scene: Reassessing Authorship
In this thesis, I examine Erich Consemüller's 1926 photograph of a masked woman sitting in a steel tubular chair, a photograph now titled Bauhaus Scene. In many scholarly treatments of the Bauhaus, an institution renowned for its progressive and modernist orientation, Bauhaus Scene serves as a synecdoche for the accomplishments of the institution as a whole, and also as evidence of women's emergent role both at the school and in Weimar Germany more broadly. Few scholars have questioned the connotative power of Bauhaus Scene, however, despite the photograph's countless reprintings in history books, exhibition catalogs and advertisements. Only recently have art historians even situated the masked woman of Bauhaus Scene within her social context as an example of the neue Frau or "New Woman" that emerged in post-World War One German society. This thesis advances the discourse on Bauhaus Scene by applying a critical feminist approach to the pattern of exclusion that has erased the work of the female artists whose products feature prominently in the photograph. By challenging how authorship functions in Bauhaus Scene, this thesis contributes to a growing body of feminist scholarship on the Bauhaus, and on the complex status of women artists within the early twentieth-century avant-garde. I highlight the unacknowledged artistic contributions by women artists to Bauhaus Scene, thereby illustrating the lesser position of the Bauhaus weavers in comparison to their male counterparts. Finally, I place Bauhaus Scene in conversation with the image of the New Woman in The Coquette I (1923-25) by the female Dadaist photomontage artist Hannah Höch to more broadly explore the ways female authorship operated within the masculinized politics of modernism.